A Projection of Things to Come for Venice
By Ashley Thompson
This week, Venice battled the highest floodwaters it’s faced in more than two decades, and the fourth-highest levels in contemporary history. Our friends over at National Geographic have a gripping photo gallery of life continuing in Venice, despite swelling seas and Mayor Massimo Cacciari’s request to tourists and residents to stay indoors.
Waters began to subside early Tuesday, after topping 61 inches the day before. But the coast is hardly clear for these Adriatic islands, as experts say global warming is to blame. While flooding is a regular occurrence in Venetian life (I went there two years ago and was surprised by the elevated walkways installed every afternoon at St. Mark’s Square), the severity of such flooding is rapidly increasing.
Help may be on the way in the form of the controversial Moses project, a $5.4 billion plan that would involve retractable metal gates being installed on the seafloor, which is expected to be completed in 2014. Moses would be activated if flood levels rose more to more than 43 inches, which can happen multiple times a year in Venice. But environmental groups are pushing instead for carbon emission cuts as a solution, arguing that such a quick fix will do nothing to protect the famed floating city in the long-term future.
Photo via JoshNoland’s Flicker
Earlier this year, the European Geophysical Union predicted that sea level rise caused by climate change could be as much as 1.5 meters — or almost 60 inches — by the turn of the century. This is up from 2007 estimates that global sea level rise could increase anywhere from 7-23 inches, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report last year.
A project coming out of the Midwest (yes, allow me to toot my Kansas horn again) from the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets shows a projection of things to come for eight regions of the world most affected by rising seas, including the Mediterranean. Haskell Indian Nations University and the University of Kansas
teamed up to map these areas of the world and project flooding levels, which range from one to six meters. You can watch the entire progression here. Notice how the area around Venice is the most rapidly affected in the region.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
CReSIS studies the role polar ice sheets have on global sea level change. Given the past two summers of record-shattering low ice levels in the Arctic, this week’s floods could prove to be a canary in the coal mine for Europe’s most precariously set city.
Explore the other regions of the world of CReSIS’ Sea Level Rise Maps here.
(Above: The red shows inundated areas of the global sea level rose 2 meters. Courtesy Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets.)